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Doncic Makes His Triple-Double Look Easy In OT Win Over Nets
Luka Doncic is such a wondrous talent, capable of pulling off the most difficult shots and passes against the best NBA defenses.
On Thursday, the Nets made it look so easy for the Mavericks star point guard. Doncic’s triple-double of 41 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds lifted Dallas to a 129-125 overtime victory in Brooklyn.
The Nets (1-4), playing on a rough back-to-back after falling in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, dropped their third straight game and, contrary to the postgame statements by Head Coach Steve Nash, seem no closer to understanding who they’re supposed to be on both ends.
There are reasons why the Nets are the league’s second-worst team when it comes to points yielded per 100 possessions and defending the three-point line so far this season, allowing their opponents to shoot 43.6% from deep, despite the upgrades they made in the offseason to address their defensive issues.
It starts with all the unnecessary switching they do. Doncic was able to pick his victims at will, be it Kyrie Irving for much of the contest or Yuta Watanabe, who played the overtime with five fouls. Incredibly, the initial Nets’ game plan allowed Patty Mills to switch onto Doncic multiple times in the first quarter despite the eight-inch height disadvantage. After the inevitable beating, Mills played just 10 minutes the rest of the way, all during Doncic’s rest periods.
Many of Dallas’ screens for Doncic were token at best, barely touching or missing the Nets’ pick-and-roll defender entirely. Yet Brooklyn still switched at Doncic’s whim, forcing everyone else to lean towards helping out.
That in turn resulted in far too many catch-and-shoot opportunities for Dallas’ marksmen. Doncic needn’t have attacked the paint—he still caught Nets defenders too far out of position to get back to contest his quick pass to a wide-open three-point shooter. A defensive rule of thumb is supposed to be to avoid helping one pass away—many Nets, including high-IQ defenders like Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons, broke their thumbs on Thursday.
In the overtime, Brooklyn got caught trying to mix things up in their pick-and-roll coverage, throwing in some hedge-and-recover looks and double teams. Instead, they got mixed up, leaving Tim Hardaway, Jr., Max Kleber, and Reggie Bullock all wide open behind the three-point line in succession off simple passes from Doncic to build a nine-point lead.
There was no coming back. The Nets wasted a combined 76-point outburst from KD and Kyrie and some high-energy efforts from unsung bench members like Edmond Sumner, David Duke Jr., and Watanabe. For the first time this season, the Nets weren’t brutalized on their defensive glass, limiting Dallas to just four second-chance points.
Their biggest problem remains that they still haven’t figured out how they want to fit Simmons into the fold. In the last two games, they’ve been gradually expanding the experiment where he plays the five to minimize the time when he shares the court with other non-shooters like starting center Nic Claxton. Unfortunately, until Simmons regains the form that made him a two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team honoree and a career 16 ppg scorer, Claxton happens to be Brooklyn’s best all-around defender and third leading scorer, so I’m not sure that this tradeoff has been all that beneficial to the team’s cause.
In addition, the Nets’ two stars seem to avoid Simmons like the plague down the stretch of tight games, possibly accommodating Simmons’ alleged fear of getting put on the free throw line, where he has made just 4-of-10 this season. Simmons is still a very good playmaker with the ball in his hands when the floor is properly spaced, but if the Nets had no plan to involve him on the offensive end outside of setting a few screens, then why play him at all? His late steal/dish to Durant that tied the game notwithstanding, Simmons’ one-on-one defense could best be called inconsistent. Doncic beat him to the rim on several occasions, making it look like a layup drill.
The Nets can hang with any team when Durant and Irving drop 76 points while posting a shooting split of 50/37/100, but the objective is winning. The defensive woes aren’t a new problem that suddenly appeared this season because of team turnover, despite Nash’s excuse-making. It’s been the case for years. Whereas the Nets depend on their stars to work relentlessly to manufacture offense, their opponents have been able to treat coming to Brooklyn like a run in the park.